Friday, January 22, 2010

Wake up call for a few Sens players

Great game tonight. It is never fun blowing a two-goal lead to a tired team, but the boys persevered and leaned on one of those rarely used tools in the shed - the powerplay. All three of the goals tonight were with the man advantage. The nicest one had to be Watermelon Warrior's one-timer in the slot if for no other reason than it was a triumphant return back to the lineup after the concussion.

But as you know, we aren't here for post-game updates. The other Sens blogs like Silver Seven Sens do a great job at that and so we take a different approach. Today, I'd like to sound the alarm for a few players that haven't jumped up and raised the bar in the past five games. Some names are to be expected, some will surprise you. Here we go:

Wake up Call #1: Jonathan Cheechoo

We're all starting to get a bit tired of this act. For the first while, we gave him time to gain chemistry with new linemates. For the next little while, we cut him slack for injury recovery. Then, we defended him because he was a 'hard worker' and had a good attitude. Now, we're full circle and sticking up for him because he's stuck on the fourth line. Let's get over it, everyone. Cheechoo isn't good. I watched him closely tonight and not only is his shot terrible, he has poor positioning. We had a 3-on-2 coming down the left wing and Cheechoo, coming down the right side, decided to join the jump into the middle with his centre. Normally, this might be crashing the net, but in this case he completely abandoned the weak side and so when Smith's shot came off Mason's pads and kicked perfectly to the far slot, there was no $3M winger there to bang it into the open net. Dumb stuff like that. For that amount of money, a guy that brings nothing to the table but hard work...brings nothing to the table. Wake up call to not a 56-goal scorer, but perhaps a 20-goal scorer? Or someone that can skate better than Brad Marsh? Anybody home, McFly? My patience with the Cheechoo train has left the station.

Wake up call #2: Chris Kelly

Another obvious one here. I'm not as disappointed in him just because expectations are so low to begin with. Kelly kills penalties and backchecks, wins a few faceoffs, and keeps getting credit as a good 'locker room guy'. But remember a few years ago when he stepped onto the top line and basically earned his entire $8M contract in the month that Spezza was out? No NHL player's hands should be so awful that they can't hit the corner of the net once in a while instead of always shooting it into the chest of the goalie. While his teammates like Regin are running with the added icetime, it is discouraging to see Kelly remain on his low level plateau and fail to fill a void that he once did. Step it up, Kells.

Wake up call #3: Filip Kuba

What is with this guy? Last year, we knew that there was no physical dimension to his game but he still had the ability to move the puck up the ice and quarterback the powerplay. Now, he's constantly out of position in the defensive zone, he's getting pushed around more than Karlsson, and his shots are going off forwards' shins. I won't even bother with the salary argument because that is obvious. I will bother to point out that Kuba is the lesser defenceman paired with Karlsson right now, which is disappointing. Lucky for us, the kid is stepping up to balance the demise of #17. I'd like to think that Kuba, if he is truly healthy from the wrist/hand injury, can't be that different than the solid, reliable puck mover he was last year.

Wake up call #4: Ryan Shannon

This was a tough one. You hear his name a lot during a typical broadcast because he skates hard and gets into the corners. He's strong with the pickpocket and he benefits from lining up with Kovalev and upstart Regin right now. So then why is he stuck at 13 points and close to a team worst minus-9? Shannon is not on this team for his magical playmaking, he's here because he's fast and he's responsible. He isn't as gifted as his two linemates, but he should be the one hanging back to help the D out when Regin and Kovalev are wearing offence. Shannon should still feel like a kid getting a chance with the big club, learn to take advantage of his icetime, and help us keep pucks out of our zone. Spezza is back next week and while the obvious out is Zach Smith (let's be honest, this is exactly who it will be), it isn't unfair to name Shannon in the short list.

Okay, the one thing I hate about posting this is that it is so lame to write something negative in the middle of a five-game winning streak. I guess I just want to see all the pieces moving in the same direction. But I don't want to take away from a very impressive five-game winning streak right now. We have some tough games coming up against the Bruins, the Devils, and the Penguins, too. If the Chicago win was a barometer against the best team in hockey, these next three will hopefully validate it for us. We've struggled with all three teams for most of the season, so hopefully the momentum will keep cranking.

Upcoming discussions: The Volchenkov conundrum, the Pascal/Elliott conundrum, and the "let's hope Sweden stinks in the Olympics so Alfie doesn't get worn out" conundrum.

In the meantime, did the wake up calls ring true, was one of the unwarranted, or was someone left off?


Master Of Puppets said...

Totally agree. Cheechoo shows flashes of brilliance. Forecheck hard, win a puck battle then come out and try to wrist home a shot short side high which is easily stopped or misses completely. The wheels and hands that used to get him to scoring areas just aren't there anymore. His next contract will be 600K 4th liner. Sad.

Shannon is a tough one to dump on because he works his little arse off most nights, has speed to burn and throws his little frame around, but -9 says a lot.

Kelly is up and down - sometimes he's brilliant as the 2 way checking center and sometimes he makes a gaffe or zigs when a zag is called for. I've always been frustrated by his lack of finish or dangle. If he had Smiths dangle - wow.

Conundrums coming? Oh no!

Sens were a bit lucky last night - I think they were a bit flat at times and not moving their feet.

The next three will be a damn good test. Lose em all - no big deal but keep it close - no losses by more than one goal allowed and do it in overtime.

Rink Rant said...

It was surprising to see this article this morning on the heels of W5! Though I definitely feel you on the whole ‘leave the recap to the Silversevens’ They do a great job and besides I love stuff like this! Okay so I’m only going to comment on #1 Mr. Cheechoo as I know my comments are eating up your bandwidth for the month. When I heard the news that Heatley was traded to SJ my brain repeated the thought “Please don’t get Cheechoo in the deal! Please don’t get Cheechoo in the deal! Please don’t get Cheechoo in the deal! (infinity).” Of course we got him. You know my reaction did not come from hating the guy. No. It’s because I knew I would be loving the guy. A self taught guy, fantastic role model for aspiring First Nations kids (Tootoo not so much), potential redemption story post Richard trophy/All Star glory...yeah, how can you not root for the guy? Know who else I root for? Donovan, Carkner…dudes just make above league minimum and work their tails off to crack the lineup…not 3-3.5M with guaranteed ice time and a chance on every line. I remember before the season Pierre McGuire predicting Cheech would pot 8 goals this year and thinking “Whaaaaaat?! Hell get at least 15 maybe 20 that’s just mean.” Thus began my delusional rooting for the guy (Yeah, he’s currently on pace for 7 and stands a -9) I still want to Root for Cheechoo…just on another team. Especially so with some of our Bingo babies looking like they are ready for the show. Ps. One more for the Upcoming Conundrums pile “Mustering the strength to cheer for Heatley at the Olympics (ditto Pronger)”

The Dutch Treat said...

Bang on about Kuba...guy is useless out there.

Anonymous said...

Are you serious? Lets review all the players you labeled as having to step up:

1-Jonathan Cheechoo: deserves criticism for his poor skating and finishing, but we knew this a long time ago. But maybe for the last two months Cheechoo has really been a solid board guy and has not cost the team defensively. So despite his shortcomings and obvious outlandish paycheck, Cheechoo has made solid gains with his strong positioning and board work.

2-Chris Kelly: Really? The guy who has stepped up unbelievably and been apart of one of the most consistent lines in hockey with Ruutu and Neil? Most of the time with Ottawa's injuries Kelly was a consistent two way threat and scored regularly; he kept this team afloat. I mean his finishing is lacking sometimes, but he is much more valuable in terms of a penalty killer and forechecker. I would advise you to check the stats...if anything kels has raised his trade value with his play.

3-Kuba: dead on with your assessment. This guy is a pylon and is severely lacking in defensive ability (and not really doing much on offense). Karlsson has definetly picked up the slack and covered up for Kuba, but I forsee nothing but downside for this guy and I am hoping he is let go for an upgrade- his contract is another roadblock...

4-Shannon: I mean really? You are nitpicking and looking at the wrong players my friend. Shannon has been a revelation for a Senator team in need of secondary scoring; plus/minus can be an inflated stat, and it can be attributed to shannon playing increased ice time. His speed and finishing have been the reason why Ottawa did not sink to the bottom of the standings; re: Kelly...

Rink Rant said...

I am with Annie (short for Anonymous) #2 and #4...I cant complain with their play they are doing their jobs. as for #3 I propose a new nickname for our man Filip for his perfomances like last night's: Kuba Badding Jr.

duff said...

Anon: cheechoo a good board guy? The last good boards guy we had was Schaeffer and he is unemployed now. I hate the hard work argument. Why wouldn't he work hard? He's an NHL player! You know what else works hard? A washing machine (National Lampoons quote). Salary aside, he's still our worst forward in terms of on-ice contribution. The worst. I'm done defending him.

Kelly's play and his contribution have hit a plateau this entire season. Whike guys like Regin and Ruutu are stepping up, Kels has continued to play the same game. The problem I have is he's struggled to corral the puck in our own zone to get it out, which was supposed to be one of his better abilities.

Shannon has been given a huge opportunity with icetime and linemates and I just don't see him really blowing minds. Part of it is my fault for expecting more from the guy we traded Laurence Nicholat for. But didn't he go the first 35 games without a goal or something?

pynch said...

Easy Annie, you want to be careful around using the term "solid board guy" with Duff. Remember when Peter Schaeffer was a "great board guy"? How'd that turn out? Anyways, I get what you mean with the term "board guy", but know Duff, he will not agree, and quite loudly I'm sure. (just a head's up)...

You know what would be awesome? If Kuba was a "solid defensive guy". Or a "solid offensive defensive guy", or a "guy that earns his paycheck by doing his job as expecting guy".

Kuba Badding Jr...I'm still laughing!

pynch said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
pynch said...

Dammit! I see that Duff beat me to my warning!

Dave Young said...

.... Kelly is 4th on the team in points. In the same number of games he has 7 more point than ruutu. I still think he is too expensive and it would be awesome if he had better hands... but wake up call?

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